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Top 10 Item List of “What to Avoid” by an Estimator

Updated: Mar 10


It is a well-known fact that compiling accurate estimates in the construction industry consists of painstaking specifics and precision. Construction estimators tend to be highly competitive in the market and at the same time work tight schedules and deadlines, giving leeway to human error as a part of the job. However, in a profession that necessitates the balancing of all incurring costs; oversight is rarely permissible.


So here is a list of the top 10 “what to avoid” items during the grueling process of estimation:-


1. Non-transparent process

It is vital that the estimate produces each item’s most granular details and shows the associated costs. While this makes the work more tedious, it can easily lead to losing bids or just confusing the client. As such, the black box approach needs to be eliminated so that everyone can understand the derivation of the grand total, regardless of his or her level of experience. Transparency also solicits collaboration and invites the sharing of better practices throughout the company.


2. Underestimating Labor & Material Costs

This is possibly the most arduous part of the job, as it can be subject to very whimsical changes. The estimate should elucidate the details, leaving no scope for questioning or further clarifications. Miscalculation in the quantity takeoffs eventually have direct impact on the overall computation that involves numbers related to material and also the labor costs. Mistakes may also occur here due to a lack of awareness of their real costs or improper research.


3. Inconsistency in Margin Calculation Algorithm

In the absence of efficiency, the profit and other margins also seem to diminish. Therefore, the credibility of the take-offs must be ensured. The final cost estimate almost always differs from the initial bid. In this situation, validity can be maintained by determining the value through unit cost estimation. Factors such as labor, materials, and supply must contribute to both, profit as well as estimate accordingly.


4. Missing out Last-Minute Changes

Last-minute changes tend to be the harbinger of error. They create unanticipated stress at the eleventh hour. It is crucial for any estimator to have a set of dependable plans to work from. If the circumstances are unavoidable, then the changes must be made with careful consideration.


5. Focusing on Strengths Alone

Any professional will always have strong points and areas of absolute expertise. However, it is only human to lack the same kind of proficiency in other disciplines. And it is these domains that will maximize the probability of fallacy. To avoid this, predefined modules or templates can be used. They work well with information from reliable sources, such as other employees or third-party pricing databases to provide the previously missing data.


6. Trailing Each Project

It is extremely tempting to chase every project available, as they would create opportunities to expand dexterity and prowess as well as keep the crew in constant work. However, there will be projects floating around that will require more work and deliver less profit. An ability to identify and steer clear of these is vital.


7. Apportioning Resources Incorrectly

Allocating resources intrinsically consists of an elaborate machination of persistent shifting and rescheduling of both, capital and material, and then proceeding to make it as economical and effective as possible. The entire process is prone to omissions and inaccuracies, and thus, one must proceed cautiously.



8. Overlooking Risk Elimination

An estimator’s greatest tool is perhaps, foresight. One’s ability to determine risks in advance and navigate methods to minimize uncertainty comes into play. This aptitude however only comes from experience and strenuous analysis of previous projects that had gone awry.


9. Not Taking a Step-wise Approach

There is a very particular image that comes to mind with keywords like estimates, bids, and profits-an office desk with a bespectacled person punching numbers and line items onto a spreadsheet. This bottoms-down approach, however, lacks a strategic view and is abundantly time-consuming. Another major drawback is that at the core of this process is its monotonous nature, making it more liable to calculation flaws.


10. Limited Views of the Project

Working on simple spreadsheets for a longer duration is dreary and colorless to most people. Therefore, it is important that the spreadsheet data should be regrouped and filtered to display information according to various aspects like activity, crew, classification etc.


Summing up –

Estimation in the construction industry requires a large amount of analysis, bidding and dealing with financial prerequisites. As such, even minor blunders can be influential resulting in substantial changes to the final outcome. These top 10 attributes in an estimator’s quiver shall help propel business, profit and trust.

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